Pasta carbonara is one of my favorite meals. A simple, fast, and utterly satisfying concoction, it is probably my number one comfort food. So I don't take all that kindly to recipes that mess with a good thing. Still, a few zucchini from the farmer's market were tempting me, and adding something a little green to my dinner probably wasn't the worst idea. So this Jamie Oliver recipe, a carbonara with the addition of zucchini and fresh thyme, seemed like a good fit.
Turns out that zucchini is a perfectly tasty companion for carbonara. My only real objection in this recipe's deviation from the original formula is the use of heavy cream—the carbonara crutch. Authentic pasta carbonara shouldn't contain cream at all; the silky texture ought to come from the egg yolks, cheese, and pasta cooking water, which combine with the hot pasta and melt (not scramble) into something unctuous and rich. I left it out of the recipe, and all was well.
- 6 medium zucchini
- 1 pound penne
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 good handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 thick slices of bacon or pancetta, cut into thick lardons
- 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salty water to boil. Cook the penne until al dente.
In the meantime, slice the zucchini into half moons 1/4-inch thick. Combine the egg yolks in a bowl with half the Parmesan and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir with a fork to combine and set aside.
Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of pasta water, and return to the cooking pot. Add a splash of the pasta water to the egg yolk mixture to loosen it into a sauce, then pour it over the pasta along with the bacon and zucchini. Toss the whole thing to combine as the ingredients meld together, adding additional pasta water if needed to achieve a creamy texture. Serve with the remaining cheese.